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Poor Analysis and the Designated Player Rule

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Nothing gets an MLS Fan more excited than the prospects of their teaming getting a DP. Look at the immediate interest in Sounders FC just from the smattering of rumors that Henry would be in Rave Green, every subsequent press conference led to the ownership group giving hints but never confirming because the hype from just being mentioned with a top 20 player in the world sells seats.

The interest in the Beckham effect has created a plethora of shoddy analysis, often showing that DPs don't actually help these teams win. Look at point two in this weeks Five-a-side where Steve Davis spews the following crud

A little more DP talk: As we look at the playoffs, considering above all who's in and who still wants in, one hard truth is hard to escape: once again we see that clubs do not necessarily require a designated player to turn over success in Major League Soccer.

Columbus is in the playoffs. No DP there.

Houston and New England are in great shape. DPs? Not so much.

Cherry picking is not analysis; it is just trite. You want to measure the impact of a DP on the field compare the team's Goal Differential with the DP and without. This is a method that Tango uses to measure the effectiveness of defense in the baseball world and is one that should be usable within the DP context for MLS.

Five teams have DPs currently according to Davis - LA, Chicago, DC, Red Bull and KC. Donovan is in effect a DP, though not counted as one by league rule. Davis left off TFC, which is odd, because they traded for Carlos Ruiz who makes more than the cap, and so also is a DP caliber talent.

Analysis below the break

In Chicago Blanco has played in 23 of their 26 games. In those 3 games the Fire went 1-0, 1-0, and 1--0. Two of those wins were after the Fire added McBride. Chicago averages 1.34 Goals for in games with Blanco, in games without it is one. As an attacking player, the Fire are better with Blanco than without, but we are looking at a tiny sample size.

Gallardo in DC has only appeared in 14 league matches this year. United had a negative one goal differential in matches without Gallardo and a negative one GD without him. They score 1.64 goals in matches with him and 1.63 without. They get scored on 1.86 times with him, and 1.54 games without him. Basically the game opens up more on both ends when Gallardo plays. That's the difference, an open more free flowing game.

In KC Lopez has appeared in all league matches this year.

Juan Pablo Angel has appeared in 18 of his club's league matches this year. Red Bull go from being a +6 team with Angel to a -4. Are we really going to claim that Angel is the reason that Red Bull is only 4th in the East?

TFC has had the opportunity to use Ruiz in only 4 matches, playing him in 3 of those. With Ruiz TFC has scored 2 goals against 5. The one game without they had 1 goal against 3. That's a tiny sample size.

Since MLS currently uses closed databases I'm not going to build the complicated LA Galaxy with/without for both Donovan and Beckham. There are just too many variables for me to do on a Saturday morning with Arsenal hosting Hull in the background.

The absence or presence of Designated Players should be studied by their direct impact on goal scoring and prevention and not the points on the table. This can be done by comparing the team's performance with the player and without the player. Blaming and/or crediting a DP for performance in matches that they did not play does not add to analysis of the sport. It is a simple and quick shortcut for lazy writers not to be worried by facts.

So soon the league will be looking at reworking the DP rule. One proposal that has been floated is that a DP no longer counts against the cap. While this would help the teams with plenty of revenue, it would not address their mismanagement of their own roster, and it would have a minimal impact on the overall field product as it would lead to all of 400,000 dollars or so to be spread amongst the rest of the team. The other idea floating out there is that a second DP slot will be added to all teams.

If a second DP slot is added, and able to be traded we could see superclubs (likely LA, maybe RedBull) who trade for the rights to a total of four slots. If this rule change is made than all players making more than the cap must be considered DPs, but this would still let the Galaxy put out a field of Donovan, Beckham, Ljunberg and Henry if they would like. They'd also probably lose more than they would win as they wouldn't have addressed their woeful defense.

I would actually like the addition of a DP slot, for even if they aren't used the league still generates interest amongst casual fans due to the presence of the few DPs currently here. Also by adding slots the league wouldn't be forced into a Beckham/Blanco/Henry or else mentality and could bring on more peak level talents like Angel. Because if a team only gets one DP they are going to be much more cautious but freeing up a second slot would mean that the risk is mitigated.

Seattle with two DP slots could go for a superhuge contract (like Henry) and a secondary contracted younger up and coming talent like Dong Fangzhou or Nashat Akram. So here's to hoping for that small addition and an active Hanauer in finding the right talents to fill the slots. Also, if two DP slots is the standard the cap will likely need to increase in order to create even the opportunity for four DPs to appear on the same field.